Matt Jaffe

Matt Jaffe writes his own brand of rock and roll.  It is rocking, rolling, and charged with pop.  In other words, it's pretty rad.  We asked him 3 questions about his music and songs.  Here are his answers:

Who are your biggest musical influences at the moment?

It might be more helpful to look at my influences from 6 months ago, because Tom Petty has been the only artist on tap for me since his passing.  Even though Petty is a huge influence, he can't quite shoulder my whole palette by himself. 

Back then, I was getting deep into Robyn Hitchcock (especially his 80's material with the Egyptians), Randy Newman (I saw him at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in SF last year and he inverted my brain), and John Prine (whose new record is promising to be a masterpiece, based on the singles). 

I've also been on a quest to find artists who meld the kind of songwriting I love with modern sensibilities.  It's tough to do both. 

A big favorite right now is Kate Bush.  The record I'm about to release is deeply rooted in traditional rock and roll (which sounds oxymoronic, but surely isn't by now), but I'm excited to step beyond the two guitar, bass and drums frame with subsequent releases.  I can't fool anyone and say I'm not a rock and roll lifer, but I am eager to try some new approaches anyway.

What is your songwriting process like?

Most of the songwriting process is kind of like being a hunter/gatherer.  The hunting would be reading, listening and watching other creative works and the gathering is just the everyday miscellany that usually is the best prism for telling stories anyway. 

Not every day can be the end of the world, even if art would have you think otherwise.  So collecting observations on paper (the iPhone kind) and tape (also the iPhone kind) is most of the work.  Then when I finally have a chance to sit down with the collection of observations, which isn't quite as often as I'd like, it's a jigsaw puzzle. 

I know the pieces are there, the melodies and lyrics and changes.  And I have no idea what the average time to write a song is.  Sometimes it's an easy puzzle they give to kids, 4 big pieces that make a barnyard animal.  Other times the puzzle is a 3000+ piecer of Monet's "Water lilies" and it swallows up years. 

I find if I sit around long enough, pace the same 4 square feet of my room long enough, the songs fall into place, even if it takes cannibalizing several drafts (or even other songs) in the process.  Speed of writing doesn't correlate to quality of song, in my experience.

Where do you see your music career in three years?

I used to have pipe dreams that prevented me from enjoying every day.  Every experience was only a conduit to something.  So now my life goal is to change all my means into ends.  A session or a gig or a song aren't tools for getting something; they are the thing. 

Hunger keeps the wheels turning, but eventually you have to realize that you're already living the life you're working for, or otherwise happiness just recedes.  If I had to name one big goal, it would be able to tour nationally (dare I say internationally?!?) regularly within a few years. 

I so appreciate the grassroots support that I've cultivated in the Bay Area, and I'd be thrilled if I could grow the touring footprint, even if gradually.  I couldn't be luckier in the working relationships I've had in the past few years, so I just hope I'm able to maintain those and continue writing songs that feel true.